Sunday January 6, 2013
Being true to yourself
BOOK NOOK By ABBY WONG
A heart recognises the truth of another heart as keenly as a book lover discerns a writer’s craft.
TODAY is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.” – Brad Paisley, an American singer/songwriter and musician.
Indeed. At least that is what we hope for on the first day of a new year. But when I reached into the jar and read the 365 little vignettes I had scribbled unfailingly each day in 2012, I was not impressed.
When put together, they will not make a great story mainly because I, the writer, was not true to myself.
That is paradoxical. From hindsight, how can one not be true to oneself when one is the one who knows oneself best? When I scrutinised the notes as a book reviewer might, searching deeply for the author’s tone in attempt to find her soul at the moment of her writing – and I realised I sounded self-serving.
Excuses were often made for problems, and every troubled entry felt as though it was always a battle between my heart and my mind, and the latter tended to win.
In one instance: at the airport departure gate, before flying back to Sydney from Kuala Lumpur, I wanted to hug my mother. She stood quietly, but I perceived (or rather, my mind perceived) her as expressionless and emotionless. My embrace was not reciprocated; her hands dangled downward as much as, I suspected, her eyes were downcast.
My mind thought her cold but my heart understood only too well her yearning for my love. My mind scorned, but my heart helped me discern, in that fleeting moment, my own hesitation in embracing her. My mind rebuked; my heart nudged me at my own lack of warmth. My mind won, and I came home heart-wrenched and vehement. My heart coiled as I made the day’s entry. It was page 273 of the book I now call 2012, which, if published, would be a mind-boggling book. My mind boggles at my heart, always placing it at a crossroads, easily pained and misled. When the heart tries to reveal the mind’s shrewdness, it falls, pulling down the main thread that governs my composure and humanism.
Who wouldn’t love their children? My heart emerged once again and decisively asked at page 280, a week after that heartbreaking airport fiasco. So you will read on page 281 that I called her. Then I wrote about the long chat I had with her on pages 282, 283, 284, 285.... At last, the entry in which I muse about flying home to see her this month on her birthday emerged on pages 300, 301 and so on. My heart stood guard against the nefariously sneaky, suspicious and insecure mind. It prevailed, and its prose was fluid and soothing as it engaged with heartfelt retrospectives and perspectives. My heart was writing, and in its words there was no sign of contradictions – until....
On page 362, the anxious mind snubbed the content heart, creeping out from behind bars to stir trouble and gloat over its power. In its most vicious attempt, it unleashed inexplicable angst, distressing friends and family. The mind remained uncomfortably triumphant for a few days. So, on page 362, and in place of a celebratory birthday, was a heartbreaking episode, all because the writer’s feeble heart – my heart – was unable to speak the truth. And so the writer wrote in language foiled by anger and with excuses and denunciations most self-serving. The mind, with its hideous power cumulating on page 362, thundered on with self-centred righteousness, not caring to describe the feelings of others. The entry that day was truculent, spurious and unbearably painful to read. The details I must spare you, as advised by my heart while writing this week’s Book Nook.
At least the heart did prevail with a little enlightenment from Daisaku Ikeda who says in his book entitled Human Revolution, “Become the master of your mind rather than let your mind master you.”
My next book, 2013, will be better – I promise. It will be written in crystal clear prose revolutionised by my serene, forgiving, compromising, loving and unjudgemental heart. The story will be sublime, as it will be woven with 365 uplifting vignettes. The heart, from now on no longer timorous, will steer and guide each entry, including this one on page two, where the mind is a glitch banished by my realisation that I want to write a marvellous year-long story.
Fakery, bombast, exaggeration and self-serving biases are inevitable in our lives. It is good to write one page a day, literally, to document our ever-changing life conditions and to reflect upon the same of others. The entrenched mind will always be judgemental, but it is the heart that speaks the truth. If I am asked to describe my mother, my heart speaks only of her kindness, endurance, wisdom and perseverance, for the truth lies in the hearts of all mothers. A heart sees another heart as keenly as a book lover discerns a writer’s craft. n Abby Wong begins 2013 with this thought: ‘To shift one’s thinking and see from another perspective is the first step to changing both oneself and one’s environment.’ – Daisaku Ikeda, author, poet and president of Soka Gakkai International, a movement that promotes peace worldwide.